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NORMAN REESE PAYNE

July 14th, 2004


a thumbnail image of Private Norman Payne Private Norman PaynePrivate Norman Payne was born in Chicago's south side and served with the 52nd Defense Battalion in the Marshall Islands during World War II. After the war, he returned to Chicago, where he resides.


INTERVIEWER: Sir, would you state your full name, and spell your last name?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: Norman Reese Payne, P-A-Y-N-E.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, sir, and state today's date?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: She just told me. Seven, 14, '04.

INTERVIEWER: Twenty-four.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: Twenty-four.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, now, can you tell us a little bit about your background, before joining the Marines, like where you're from, your family, your education?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: Okay, uh, I'm a native of Chicago, Illinois. I lived on the south side of the city. Uh, in terms of education, at that time, uh, I began my education in, uh, Catholic school, a school called Saint Elizabeth. At the time of the war, in 1941, my mother had died then, she died in 1935, okay? Uh, I had one sister, she was two years older than I am, and when the war came, um, I don't think it actually had a big meaning for me.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) It was just something that happened. Uh, I was 15 years old at that time. And it didn't having the meaning that it would have for someone that maybe, that had a family, or was older than I was. So, consequently, uh, I guess I more or less reacted, (STAMMERS) whatever the adults were doing in that this was supposed to have been a tragedy, but as far as I was concerned, it didn't mean anything.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) And at that time, um, I was in high school, and shortly after that, my father died. Um, my thinking always has been, you know, um, if someone asks me about my life, and my lifestyle, and my education, and things like that, I, I think you I always say this. Do you understand the time and period in which I lived? Okay? Normally when I talk to someone that's younger than I am, and I'm talking to them, (STAMMERS) they can't totally grasp what it was.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) Because they're living in a different time zone than I was in. When I say time zone, I mean this. Lifestyle was different, society was different, okay? So what may have affected me and the way I think, and the way I thought at that time is totally different, perhaps of someone, same age in a, in a different period of time, (STAMMERS) so the war came and, all. And I think my first thing was that, uh, where do I fit in, okay?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) Didn't bother me, up until the time that my father died. (STAMMERS) My father died in 1941, okay? So that put me more or less on my own, totally on my own. And when you're on your own, at least for me, at that time, being 15 years old, it was kind of scary, you know? I wasn't so much concerned with how I was going to live, but I think what was, (STAMMERS) I had broken up in my life was a, was a family tie, you know?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) And I think that's what was frightening to me, you know, so, I think the next thing I did, in the next two years was march down and say, well, I think I'll enlist in the service, okay? And I'm often asked, uh, why did I want to be a Marine? I, I didn't want to be a Marine. I never even knew anything about the Marine Corps. I had been in the ROTC, I liked it very much. And, um, I wanted to join the Army.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) I accidentally got into the Marine Corps. And up until (STAMMERS) the day I got out, I didn't like the Marine Corps. I didn't like the Marine Corps, I didn't like the experience I had in the Marine Corps. But there were two sides to it. Number one, um, I think having grown up without the benefit of, and discipline of parents, anything I learned in the Marine Corps, I already knew, and it was repetition, as far as I was concerned.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) And I think at that time, I think I was one of the worst you ever wanted to see, you know? But they did, it was some compensation, okay, I did not, I went overseas, I didn't have to go overseas. I could have gone into the quartermaster, quarter Philadelphia. I could have been a, um, drill instructor. And I sat with someone, just like I'm (STAMMERS) sitting with you.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) And I, you know, I, when they asked me, what I was interested in, I said, well, educate me. Teach me something. So the guys said to me, he said, would you like to be a (STAMMERS) cook, I said, teach me something, I don't need to cook. So what would you like? I said, (STAMMERS) send me into motor transport? No, no, whatever, you know? So I think I was more defiant.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: Not because of anything the Corps had done to me, but I think I became defiant after my parents died, you know? I, I don't mean in the sense of hating the world, uh, but I think in terms of fighting against a lot of things I didn't understand, okay? So I went into the service, I had never been south before, and when I came through, uh, the training there, in Illinois, and they put the Black Marines on one side, and the White Marines on the other side.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED)(BACKGROUND NOISE) There were only six of us. And all of the, all of the papers you had to have stamped colored, you know? Well, this is, well, the way it was hitting me, I, (STAMMERS) you know, I, I understood, and I didn't understand it. (TECHNICAL)

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) What they were doing, I didn't understand, I was naive to think that, there was a war on, (STAMMERS) and segregation had to take a backseat, okay? So when we shipped out, first night was Washington, D.C., we had a two hour layover there. And when we got out, (STAMMERS) I was the youngest one in the group, one of us, six.

INTERVIEWER: (STAMMERS) How did you leave Chicago? What, what?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: First class?

INTERVIEWER: I mean, on a train?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: Train.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, okay.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: Okay, let's...

INTERVIEWER: And what was the make-up of the, talk about the make-up of the troops on the train?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: Not a troop train now.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, oh.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (OVERLAPPING) Not coming out of (STAMMERS) I hadn't, I hadn't reached the base yet.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, go ahead.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: See, I was coming in as a civilian. So anyway, when we got to D.C., I think I was blowing up the nation's capital, you know? I think, (STAMMERS) when I say I was blowing up, you know, if you look at a youngster now, compared to my time, uh, they may perhaps have been all over the world, okay? When I was born, we were three years into the Great Depression, okay?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) That meant at that time, there's three quarters of a million people out of work. And when you say out of work, that meant that, uh, there was no activity as you know it now, you know? Vacations and things like that, okay? So when you say nothing like that you had a, (STAMMERS) different tempo, a different way of thinking and, uh, travel was out of the question. So when I had the opportunity to, I had been on a train.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) I had been to Springfield, Illinois, I'd been to Kansas City, and a couple more stops, but that was the total of everything they'd done. So the travel was not a premium like it is now, okay? So when we got to D.C., everything was segregated. That knocked me off my block, you know? You're in the nation capital, you know, you can't go here, you can't go there, okay? So after we left, after the two hour layover we left D.C..

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) That's when they brought in what they called the Mason District Line, you know? We, we went down first class to, uh, Washington D.C., and then when we got to Washington, D.C., you had to go into one coach. Okay, we had one total coach there, all right? I don't care how many people you had, that's all you had. So when we got into North Carolina, I think, I think the hardest thing I ever had to adjust to was listening to Southern drawls, you know? The whole make-up of the south. I had come from a major city, you might say. Okay, I, I came up in a, Black community. (TECHNICAL)

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) We were detrained in Washington, D.C., you could see all the monuments, and you walk around, you don't, and, we had a two hour layover between trains. And I thought this was a wonderful site, you know, very historic. And then we would go here, go there, and they would say, you couldn't come in. I think the older ones that I was with understood it far better than I did.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) It wasn't that I didn't understand it, I couldn't relate to it. And when I said, I couldn't relate to it, I could not understand that here I am, part of the, (STAMMERS) soon to become part of the military, okay? And the federal government will not say, respect that uniform, and the person that's wearing it, okay? That, I had a hard time with. I had a hard time that, when I was in the ROTC, okay?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) Because going back, when I was in the ROTC, we were the only Black high school that had an ROTC, okay? And the make-up of, uh, (STAMMERS) of all the schools out, we had what they called a cadet colonel, over each ROTC, and that cadet colonel, whatever, whichever school won the honors for that year, then the cadet colonel from that school was, was, colonel, cadet colonel over all the schools in Chicago, okay?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) And we trained awful hard. And the test consisted of, uh, drills, uh, military science and tactics, and also shooting, okay? So we had to go, they made the composite of, you put them all together, and your score. Whoever scored the highest and all these areas, okay? So, and you're drilled in what we call the downtown section, the Loop, okay? And we drilled and drilled and drilled and drilled and drilled and drilled.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) And year after year, we just came in second, came in second, you know? So one year, you know, we asked you mean to tell me, we never win? Okay, and, uh, we were told, eventually, that no Black school would oversee any White schools, okay. And when they told me that, I guess my brain hit the ceiling, you know? And after that, I think I was just, as far as the military was concerned, I, I didn't want it anymore, okay?

INTERVIEWER: Tell, tell me, when you got to, uh, got down to Camp Lejeune, tell me about your, your impressions of your first day, if you could paint a picture of that first day, when you walked into Montford Point? Can you do that for us?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: Okay, when you say Montford Point, (STAMMERS) I don't know how you would, I don't know how other people react, but the South was very hostile to me, okay? From the time I got off the train, it was a very hostile place. When we hit camp, at that time, when you first came into camp you didn't have enough compliment to make up a (STAMMERS) platoon, so you were known as an extra man, okay?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) That meant, whatever clothing you came down in, that's the clothing you had, that's the clothing you kept. And you'd police the area, you did odd jobs around there, until you had enough people there to make up, a squad or, (STAMMERS) a platoon. So that meant you walked around and everything, you know, and it rained all the time I was there. And you had what you'd call, um, Quonset huts, whatever.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) And most of them leaked. And my impression was, like I, like I tell them, I said, I can't walk in wet clothes. So I was told I, they would give me a slip, a TS slip, and I would take it someplace, and they would correct it, you know? (LAUGH) I'm taking all this seriously, you understand? Anyway...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Did you, when you, when you were there, at Montford Point, uh, do you, did you have any liberty at all, during your, during your training? During boot camp? Did you, did you get, get any liberty at all?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: While in training?

INTERVIEWER: Yes.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: No.

INTERVIEWER: When, uh, when you did get, uh, liberty, uh, did you get a chance to, uh, go out into town, and to any of the surrounding towns? Newburn, Wilmington, Jacksonville?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: Yes.

INTERVIEWER: Kinston?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: Yes.

INTERVIEWER: What was it like?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: It was new to me. Uh, I would go to where they had maybe a dance hall or something like that. I guess most of us danced, you know? I didn't drink, so mostly I was looking for maybe, like anybody else that's coming out of boot camp, I was looking for some girls, I said, okay. And I had an experience I think that, uh, if it existed anywhere else, I didn't know anything about it. And we were going out, and all of a sudden, an MP pulled up.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) And a chick I was with, the girl I was with, they stopped her, and they said, let me see your health card. Okay? I had never gone through that before, okay? And when they saw her health card, they told her, (STAMMERS) well, you didn't report for a check, okay? And I was up in the air, what the hell are you going on? I don't know what's going on. And then I was told, I said, well, you are probably saved the experience of having a contagious disease, okay?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) I, I didn't know what he was talking about, you know? But I think one of the things I did learn down there that helped me later on was, uh, we went to a class session where they explained some of the things that would happen, particularly, (STAMMERS) you know, they explained the social disease, like syphilis, gonorrhea.

INTERVIEWER: Let me ask you, let me ask you something else. Did, did you, uh, ever, uh, move outside of the Jacksonville area? I mean, did you ever go on liberty into (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ...

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (OVERLAPPING) Yes.

INTERVIEWER: And Wilmington, or New Bern?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: Oh, well, this incident happened in New Bern. I went to Rocky Mountain, North Carolina. And, uh, that was an experience. When I say it was an experience, if you take in my age factor, and the fact that I'm, down in the mouth my society, a long ways from my society, everything was new to me, okay? Not only new, totally strange. I think the hardest adjustment I had to make, sum total of my experience in this respect, in North Carolina, was Black people.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) I never knew at that time that I didn't know anything about Black people. I didn't. There was an incident that I, I was involved in, I was walking along, and, uh, there were two Whites in front of me, and two Black women coming from the opposite direction, and when they stopped, the White said, now don't you Black bitches know you're supposed to get off the sidewalk when a White man pass?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) So I said, what did you say? And he said, uh, he said, nigger, I wasn't talking to you. And I hit him, and I knocked the hell out of him, okay. And the next thing I know, the sheriff was there, and the townspeople were there, okay? And they took me to the, little area away from that scene, okay, and one fella said, I told you, this must be one of them fellas from up, up north, 'cause they ain't had the education that they supposed to be having.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) And that was ringing in my ear. And the guy said, boy, where are you from? And I said, I'm not a boy. So he pulled his pistol, and he stuck it to my head, and he said, boy, I'm gonna ask you one damn time, boy, where you from? I said, (STAMMERS) from Chicago. I told you. I told you that boy wasn't educated. He never been educated as to what he supposed to be doing. And a guy, he told me, he said, well nigger, I'm gonna give you one more chance.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) He said, if I ever catch you again, (STAMMERS) I'm gonna blow your damn brains out, you got that boy? I said, yeah. Okay, when that failed though, uh, I went back to the Black community. My chest was stuck out I say, I'm gonna back there, I'm the hero, you know? And the Black people said to me, why did you come down here causing trouble? That hit me in the face like a brick, okay?

INTERVIEWER: I can imagine that, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ...

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: Well, one thing I didn't understand it, okay? Okay? And I said, what do you say? Well, what I didn't understand at the time was, the fact that he was saying, that the Northern Blacks were more defiant than the Southern blacks, so consequently, what went on the agenda was the fact that, I'm gonna have to teach all of you, and make an example of you, so you don't do the same thing, okay?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) I couldn't piece all this together, at one time. You know, I, I, you know I was, it was rolling around my mind, okay? And I think the, the (STAMMERS) the first thing that hit my mind was, well, I said, I don't know anything about my own people.

INTERVIEWER: I can imagine you know how, you know how to, how that culture shock affected you. But let me ask you this, what, when you left, uh, Montford Point, uh, what, what where did you go, sir? (STAMMERS) Did you, did you go overseas, uh...

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: We went, (STAMMERS) when we left point, we went to, Camp Pendleton. Not the Camp Pendleton that you have now, 'cause it wasn't developed. And they had a little area they call, it was a stepping off point, they called it Little Tokyo, okay? And that's where we stayed until, uh, as a little, uh, little out from the ocean.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Do you know where, can you tell us where they told you were going, and how'd you feel about that? (STAMMERS) Where were you going, where were they sending you, did you know where you were going?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: First I was at Pearl Harbor.

INTERVIEWER: But did they, when you left, did you have orders to a particular place? I mean, did you know exactly where there were sending you?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: Okay, in, in, a two part answer.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: No, as far as I was concerned, it didn't make any difference. Um...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Did you travel on the troop train, going out?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: Okay, when we left North Carolina, (COUGH) there was 1250 men, 52nd Defense Battalion. They split us, some went the northern routes, some went the southern routes. I went the southern route. They would never let us get off the train, no matter where we stopped. When we hit New Mexico, they had, uh, USO, they wouldn't serve us, okay, they didn't serve us anything. Couldn't get off the train.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) When we came through New Orleans, they put us on the backside, not New Orleans, uh, hmm, where's that college? I'm sorry, anyway, they put us on the backside, okay. When we got to, uh, California, they refused to pay us, they gave you 72 hour passes, and they refused to pay us. I didn't get a pass, and I asked my sergeant why, he said, well go see the lieutenant. My lieutenant was from Georgia.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) I, uh, went to see him, he told me, he said, well, you just don't show me no respect. I said, I don't understand what you're talking about. He said, well, I, I, I, I'm, I'm not gonna let you out of here. I said, well how can you keep me out of here? I said, what charges do you have? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I said, do I get a pass, or no? He said no. I said, I'll tell you one thing. I'm gonna salute you, and tell you to go to hell, I'm gone, okay?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) Now it wasn't that I didn't understand that was wrong, but I was at an emotional level at that time that I didn't give a damn, okay, and I was a kid. And I took off. And he didn't see me for three days, okay? I didn't know at the time, but it stayed on my mind. I said, what was he talking about? And down the road a piece I began to, you know, put pieces all together. I didn't know at the time, that you were not supposed to look a White man in the (STAMMERS) eye.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) You're supposed to hold your head down, here. And (STAMMERS) when I started putting it together, I said, I'm learning more and more, about everything in life, you know, the country, the army, the service, whatever.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) So, so you all were headed uh, you all were headed in a, (STAMMERS) well, you, I, I guess you thought you were headed into combat, as, as you made this journey out west?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: No, if you asked me, (LAUGH) okay, I'm, I'm giving you my version. Number one, I was in a place where I didn't want to be. I was in a branch of service at that time that I didn't' want to be in. And you were talking me away from something I didn't want in the first place, that was Chicago, and what Chicago meant at that time. So, (STAMMERS) you know, it's like a limbo type situation.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) It doesn't make any difference. When you, (STAMMERS) at that time, in my mind, when you start talking in terms of war, what kind of war were you talking about? The war that I was in at home, or the war that I was going to? It was a battle all the way, it didn't make any difference to me. Uh, I think I share those feelings sometimes right now, you know, if you, if you put the same thing to me, you know?

INTERVIEWER: When, when you all left California, that's where you went to, right? Okay, when you left California, uh, where'd you go from there?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: Pearl Harbor.

INTERVIEWER: How, how, um, aboard ship?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: Right. Across the International Date Line.

INTERVIEWER: What, where did you eventually end up?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: You mean, after we left Pearl?

INTERVIEWER: Right.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: Marshal Islands.

INTERVIEWER: Talk, talk a little bit about your stay there. I mean, what did, I guess, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ..

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (OVERLAPPING) (LAUGH) Okay, I'll put, I'll put it this way, (LAUGH) it's not exactly funny. Um, the Islands weren't like you know them now, you know? (STAMMERS) The Islands, everybody think in terms of, you know, vacations, it, it wasn't that, you know, everything was in a shell-shocked condition, you know? And I think, the most shocking thing, after a year in the Islands, I saw a woman, the first time.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) The most shocking thing I ever want to see there, I hadn't seen a woman a whole year. Now you're talking about a bunch of young men, okay? And there was no women, okay? I'm giving away how I felt the way everybody else felt, you know? So, uh, (STAMMERS) those were the things, but as far as the Island was concerned, um, here again...

INTERVIEWER: Did you see any combat there? (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: Okay, I was, um, a machine gunner. I went to Ordinance School, and I was a machine gunner, attached to Searchlight. Searchlight was a component of the 90 millimeters, okay, we were all antiaircraft, okay. Antiaircraft did not, after you take an island, we went in and set up bases, okay? Uh, our task was mainly you might say, aircraft. Which, never came back, okay.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) As far as combat, they took me, I didn't volunteer, they just took me, and some more, and we made up a unit. On certain islands that we went to, they were still nestled in certain (STAMMERS) places, Jappers (SIC) , Jap (STAMMERS) troops, okay. So it was our job to go and clean out some of these nesters. They, they, you know, it wasn't so much our job, but, I think, I always had suspicion that, since I was such a thorn in everybody's side, and such a rebel, (STAMMERS) that's why I got the assignment. It didn't make me any difference, you know, (STAMMERS) at that time. But the odd part about it, you know, in these assignments...

INTERVIEWER: Did, did you ever, some of the places that they were sent, sent you to, to, uh, clean out, did, did you ever find any, uh...

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: Yes, we did. (COUGH)

INTERVIEWER: Tell me about that. Let's talk about that, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ...

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: The odd thing about it, well, although we had a top side, and a top ranked Sergeant with us, I was the only one that had skills. I could read maps. I could tell you (STAMMERS) what, something I had learned in the Marine Corps, I mean, in the ROTC. And I was the only one that could do that. And every time I opened my mouth, they'd say, shut up. I didn't shut up.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) And I had been in there, I had been out about 10 times, and they sent us to an area called 32. And I went to the night before, it was two nights before, I went to the side, and I saw the guys shaving, and taking baths, and everything like that, you know, I said, Sarge, tell them don't do that. Excuse the expression, young lady, but I said, let them be as funky as they can be. What the hell do you know about it?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) I said, okay, I'll go my mind business, see? See, 'cause when you got into the jungle area, a Japanese could sniff certain, like the talc that you got on your face, okay.

INTERVIEWER: Did you actually see some...

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: Oh, yes.

INTERVIEWER: ...some enemy?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: I went out with a, they wanted to make a raid, one night. And they came and got me. And we made a raid, okay?

INTERVIEWER: Did you actually capture some enemy?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: The raid wasn't intended to capture anybody.

INTERVIEWER: (STAMMERS) What were you just, what were they out there to do?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: Kill. And then, after the killing came, cut them up. Okay? I didn't, but (STAMMERS) I observed it.

INTERVIEWER: Wow. Let me, let me ask you then, (STAMMERS) after your experiences with, uh, with the 52nd, you all came back to the States. Let me, let me ask you this, sir, uh, uh, (STAMMERS) we're getting, running out of time here, so let me ask you, is there anything you would like to tell us, about your experiences, any difficulties any unique situations? Anything that you'd like to leave behind for this documentary, that we haven't talked about?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: Okay. I grew up...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ...

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: ...in an emotional sense, I grew up in service, okay? I learned something, a lot of things that I guess I will take to the grave, (STAMMERS) with me, because I learned about people. I learned about my people, and I guess, most of all, I learned about myself, okay? And I guess, ever since then, the only battle I've ever had, is trying to battle me, and trying to correct me, in the things that I do. And I think the Marine Corps played a major role in trying to make Norman Payne everything that Norman Payne didn't become.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) You, you, you, uh, really painted a picture of growing up, you know, on the south side of Chicago, and, and, you've come a long, long way from there. If you had to do this all over again, would you? Would you do this?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: If you gave me the same circumstances. I don't, I would not recommend it, (STAMMERS) you know, if you had a choice, but I say the same circumstances, the same time, in life, yes.

INTERVIEWER: Brotherhood, camaraderie, association with your Montford Point, uh, Marine (STAMMERS) camaraderie, can, can you just say a word or two about that?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: Well, I since, my family as I knew, it, dying at a early stage in my life, I guess in the sense of being comrades, and knowing one another, and, that became a small segment in the sense of being a family. Okay?

INTERVIEWER: So this is family?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: Hmm, well, if it's not, it's the only thing I know. (LAUGH) See? (TECHNICAL)

INTERVIEWER: I want to ask you about on how you went up to sign up, and there was a sign there that about (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ...

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: About the who?

INTERVIEWER: The food, do you remember, at the, uh, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) office?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (OVERLAPPING) Okay. Um, I guess I was a street person, you know? Not by choice, but by circumstances, uh, after my mother died, and I was nine when she died, my father went to work. He left the house about 4:00 in the morning, transportation was a problem at that time, and when I saw him again, it was probably 5:30, 6:00 at night. And I became a street person. I guess at that time, I was just as dumb in the streets as I was at anything place else, you know?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) Anyway, when the service came along, the sign said, uh, we will feed you, clothe you, and give you a place to stay. That was my motivation to try to join up, a place to stay, something to eat, and something to wear. Okay, uh, I didn't have a problem living, okay, my problem was this. When I analyze, I was not as rough as, a lot of my companions, okay? But when I looked at it, I felt I may not be as rough as you, but I think I'm smarter than you. Okay?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) So if they used the physical side, I used the mental side. In other words, I said to myself, how can I get along in this world, with whatever skills or physical abilities I have, (STAMMERS) ? And when I looked at myself, I said, well you have none. The only thing you have, young man, is your brain, okay? And, at that time, the first thing I would try to do is pick somebody's mind, okay, as to how you would relate to me, okay? I had the incident one time, that I became...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Would you, would you say that, considering where you came from, in your circumstances, when you came to the Point, (STAMMERS) joining the Marine Corps, you saw the Marine Corps as a way for you to survive?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: Not a way for me to survive, and not in that total sense that you say. Okay. I think I'd have gotten into the habit of playing life from day to day. Whatever you hand me today, I deal with it, okay? Until I can figure out maybe what I will do tomorrow, okay. Uh, I don't think any, it was anything ideal about that way of thinking. I was trying to match up Norman Payne with whatever role you gave him in life, or what, you know, until I felt that I could had some control factors, okay?

INTERVIEWER: Could you tell us if you saw the Marine Corps as a way to do that for you?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: I'll put it this way. If I had gotten to Europe, where I wanted to go, I wasn't coming back to the United States. Okay? I head read...

INTERVIEWER: But did the Marine Corps, you're coming, I guess, what I'm trying to get to is the possibility of your becoming a Marine, did you see that as a, as a way to help you match up Norman Payne with where he could be, wanted to be?

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: The aftermath, I didn't realize it, see, I was too busy fighting everything I saw when I was in there. But, once I was out, it became clear to me, things started coming together, you know, and, and, and I was getting, I was getting the picture, and in that picture was Norman Payne, and what I saw, the things that had changed in Norman Payne, and, uh, I credited that change to the Marine Corps, but at the time, no.

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: (CONTINUED) Uh, everything the Marine Corps or any other service could offer me at that time was an escape valve, that was about all. At that time, because I had nothing. You know, you know, I think if you look at life, you're trying to say comparisons. And if I was doing a comparison to, to where I was and where I was going, anything was better, okay? So that was a, that was the way it was.

INTERVIEWER: But, but in the end, did you believe that this experience was...

NORMAN REESE PAYNE: I not only believe it, I know it did. Created what you see, bad or good, that's it, you know? But it would have been worse, I think, if I hadn't had the experience, okay? Do I love the Marine Corps? Yes, I do, if that said it in a nutshell, yes I do. When I got out of the Marine Corps, no, I didn't. When I was in there, did I love the Marine Corps, no I didn't. Now, it's part of me. Okay?


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